Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day Four

It's nice to see someone reach a pilgrimage.
The kids got to swim in the morning. We weren’t rising with the sun in order to have time to boil coffee, boil water for oatmeal, figure out whether to shower before we took the tent down or after, and then taking the tent down. The budget motel with the clean sheets felt downright luxurious.

We had a busy day ahead of us, though, so after the swim we got busy and hit the first site of the day.

Are you familiar with the Kensington Runestone? I hadn’t heard of it until I joined Matt’s family. Apparently there are many remnants of Viking visitors all up and down the East Coast, but this rock with a scary message is farther west than anything else that’s been found. It was discovered in 1898 in the roots of an uprooted tree. It reads
8 Geats and 22 Norwegians on acquisition venture from Vinland far to the west    We had traps by 2 shelters one day's travel to the north from this stone    We were fishing one day   After we came home found 10 men red with blood and dead     AVM [Ave Maria]   Deliver from evils. I have 10 men at the inland sea/lake to look after our ship 14 days travel from this wealth/property Year of our Lord 1362 [translation by Robert Nielsen, 2001]
John considers the "preponderance of evidence" video unnecessary.
SPOOKY! And awesome! And...not totally authenticated. The person who discovered the stone, Olof Ohman, was burdened with being illiterate, something of an outcast, and a Swede, and so the Runestone got kind of a disadvantaged start to its modern standing. It has, since it was discovered, been considered an Important Archeological Find, a Viking Curiosity, a Historic Artifact, a Probable Hoax, a History Channel Episode of THE MAP TO THE HOLY GRAIL (or something) and an Intellectual Problem. It used to be at the Smithsonian and is now in a tiny town in the middle of Minnesota. The museum does a good job of making its case without getting all conspiracy theorist, and tries to keep its sources scholarly, although many people who have studied the Runestone recently are amateurs.

John, however, is a true believer, and I have to say I am ready to accept it as valid and true myself.
Maia checks the work done by lesser historians.
In any case, it is a great mystery, and I learned quite a bit at the cute little museum (I was hooked when the video got into language and typography on the stone), including the fact that other Scandinavian artifacts that pre-date pioneer days have been found in the area. Some settlers, trading with the Indians, were surprised and mystified to trade for old axes and firestarters that the Indians had had “for generations.”

We spent a lot of time at the Runestone museum (and dropped some cash money there, as well). Unfortunately, we then lost some more time wandering around the wilds of central Minnesota trying to outwit a detour and getting more and more lost. The one good thing about this detour is that if we hadn’t been flailing around, we wouldn’t have driven past the Swensson Farm, which is a fantastic brick farmhouse in the middle of NOWHERE. I regret not taking a picture of it. It was built by a creative and kind of eccentric Swedish inventor and his daughter; the state now has it and is working to rehabilitate it. It was a fun surprise to stumble upon.

Maia stands in the footsteps of history at Birch Coulee.
This delay meant we had a little less time to revisit some of the sad history of central Minnesota and visiting the site of the Birch Coulee battle and other sites of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. We learned a lot about the history of the battle in a short amount of time, and unfortunately just missed being able to visit the interpretive center at the Lower Sioux Agency (stupid detour). This was another part of Minnesota I would like to come back to: It would be interesting to take a long weekend and follow the Minnesota River and learn more about the settlements and battles along it.

Then we had to hurry, hurry to our campsite at Split Rock Creek State Park. We got to this one a little later than we would like, but we had gotten into a routine of putting up the tent, and it wasn’t hard to do it at twilight. Our campsite had its own little dock, and this is where Maia said,
Reading on Split Rock Lake
“I don’t know about you, Mom, but I’m going to go read on the dock.” She ran out there with a book, and John followed with a book and a folding chair, while Matt and I set up the tent.

There were no bugs. We were so lucky with weather and bugs on this trip. We never got rained on, and even here next to a pond (which, I have just learned, is the largest body of water in Pipestone County), there were no mosquitoes or biting flies. We got our tent up quick and had some time to read before we went to sleep. With the tent flap open, we could hear fish jumping in the pond, and several times in the night trains went up or down the track several miles away.

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